Most Common Horse Tack Items and Its Uses

Tack and Gear – Outfitting Your Horse for a Lifetime

If you’ve decided you want to ride a horse, you’re going to need to purchase all of the necessary tack and gear. Some people use these words interchangeably, but they aren’t actually the same thing. Tack applies more to items you need to actually ride, including a saddle, bridle, bit, stirrups, reins, cinch, blanket/saddle pad, spurs, etc. Gear, on the other hand, usually refers to the items you need to keep your horse comfortable and groomed, such as brushes, feed buckets, etc. Basically, if it’s used in riding, it’s tack, while if it’s used in the stables, it’s gear.

For beginners, there is a learning curve involved in figuring out how all of your tack goes onto your horse and what exactly it does. Every new rider has to learn this, and there’s no harm asking for help. Here’s a look at how what some of these common tack items are used for.

Saddle: This one is pretty obvious. The saddle helps you remain balanced on the horse, plus it gives you something to hold on to. There are different types of saddles for dressage, jumping, trail riding, etc.

Saddle Rack: A stand to keep your gear off the ground, keep it safe and make it easily accessible.

Halter: This is the leather harness that goes around your horse’s head. You use it along with a lead rope to lead the horse around.

Bridle: The bridle is also around the horse’s head, and it looks similar to a halter. It includes both the bit and the reins, and it’s used to guide the horse in different directions.. Bridles that use a noseband but not a bit are called hackamores.

Reins: A part of the bridle, the reins are the long leather straps that the rider holds. They are connected to the outer sides of the bit.

Bit: The bit usually refers to the components that control a horse’s mouth, including the shanks, rings, cheekpads and mullen. It sometimes refers just to the mullen, the part that fits inside a horses mouth. The mullen extends across the horses mouth and rests on the bars, between the incisors and molars where there are no teeth. The bit is located on the horse’s head by the headstall, which has several components to allow adjustment of bit location and control for better comfort.

Breastcollar: Sometimes called the breastplate or breast girth, these straps connect from the saddle down across the horse’s chest and around its front legs. They are normally used at events that require the horse to jump.

Girth: The girth, also referred to as the cinch, is the leather strap that holds the saddle in place.

Blanket/Saddle Pad: A saddle pad or a blanket is put down before adding the saddle to help keep the saddle from rubbing on the horse and causing irritation.

Stirrups: A stirrup is a piece of equipment attached to the saddle by stirrup leathers or fenders. Stirrups are what horseback riders put their feet in to make it easier to ride the horse. Stirrups can be made of metal, plastic, or wood and come in many shapes and sizes.

Selecting Your Tack

While some tack items are common across all types of riding, others are specific to dressage, jumping, barrel racing, etc. Make sure that you are using the right type of tack for your events. If you don’t, you may hurt yourself or your horse. Some pieces of tack, such as the type of saddle you use or style of bit, may be more of a personal choice. In that case, you may want to try a few of the different styles before selecting the one that you like the best.